The commentary of the cover

The Eucharistic Child by Pierre-Marie Dumont

With regard to this image of Jesus at age three, I would very much like to invite you to share in a mystico-sentimental exaltation of the charm of childhood, heightened here to marvelous perfection in the form of the Christ Child. Alas, when Francisco de Zurbarán (1598–1664) painted this work, he lent it an essentially tragic significance: Jesus’ childhood is, first and foremost, the beginning of his Passion and Death. And, indeed, as you can see, this little toddler already bears his cross and wears his seamless tunic….

 

Can we today imagine how much the children of yesteryear suffered and caused their parents sorrow? Can we imagine what it meant to suffer or to see one’s loved ones suffering from all kinds of illnesses in an age of poor sanitary conditions, without analgesics or medicines? And, after months and months of suffering, the death of six out of ten children under the age of twelve….

 

It was in contemplating their children’s Calvaries that our mothers and fathers in the Faith became so emotionally attached to devotion to the Child Jesus, convinced as they were that the beginning of his salvific Passion dated from the day of his Birth—and convinced as they wished to be that their own children’s passion was surely not in vain, since God himself had taken the form of a Child precisely to give it meaning. And what meaning: the passage from a state of misery—referred to as human, yet O how inhuman!—to a state of saved humanity in which there will be no more tears, nor anguish, nor suffering, nor death. A state in which being a child, who loves and is loved, will no longer mean suffering and causing others sorrow, but being blessed and bringing others joy.

 

The significance of this vision of childhood was such that this little painting on wood, hidden away in a Moscow museum, was in fact a door torn from the tabernacle of a Seville church. Yes, to one who knows how to contemplate him, this Child speaks volumes more than any theological lecture on the Eucharistic Christ and our communion in the mystery of the holy sacrifice of the Mass. Let us pray for our children as we contemplate the chubbycheeked face of this Child, with his strong yet tender gaze, and the endearing pout through which Zurbarán displays all the love God feels for his brothers and sisters in the human race.

 

Pierre-Marie Dumont

 

 

 

The Infant Jesus, Francisco de Zurbarán (1598–1664), Pushkin Museum, Moscow, Russia.

 

© Photo Scala, Florence.